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Boy howdy, Red Wings Nation is restless, and it’s angry at Babcock

Given fans' reactions to an exchange at the very end of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's press conference, conducted after the Wings' 2-1 shootout loss to Chicago--as I happened to mention on Twitter--you'd think that Mike Babcock signed his epitaph.

97.1 the Ticket's Mike Stone asked Babcock if he'd thought about placing Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson alongside Pavel Datsyuk (instead of Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary), and Babcock simply said, "No...Who else? See you guys," ending his presser.

Now I'm a Wings fan, too, and I'm wondering whether Babcock's simply giving Danny Cleary the rope with which to either save his spot on this year's team, to give Justin Abdelkader an honest chance to earn a top-six spot as a "net front guy," and whether he simply feels that Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson (who played the least amount of time of any Wings players on Sunday) are better-suited to playing together...

But the anti-Babcock crowd, the fans who believe that the team will simply be better served if its top line consists of Tatar-Andersson-and-Gustav Nyquist and that the team should replace Jimmy Howard with Petr Mrazek, and just about every other Wings fan who's dissatisfied with the team's 10-8-and-4 record have seized upon this comment, suggesting that it's proof that the post-Lidstrom Wings' struggles to find an identity, the team's inconsistency and every other problem, perhaps injuries included, can be blamed upon the coach.

As a human being, never mind a Red Wings fan, I don't believe in blind faith. I believe that true and strong faith in anything accommodates doubts, questions and dissent, because if you really believe in a deity, a cause or even a hockey team, your faith will survive those doubts, questions and out-and-out dissent.

But I don't understand the out-and-out hate being directed at the man who's very openly stated that he's adapting his coaching strategies to "problem solve" and reinforce positives given his dramatic changes in personnel, a man who's brought in Tom Renney to help ensure that there are different voices being heard from behind the bench and that the message was new and better instead of stale, and a man who's very openly stated that he's thrilled with the contributions of Tatar, Andersson, Emmerton, Lashoff, Smith, Mrazek, etc., and a man who's benching Ian White for the sake of "letting the kids play."

I sure as hell think that the power play is crap in no small part because the coaching staff seems to refuse to understand that placing Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Damien Brunner on the same unit does nothing if all of them spend their time trying to funnel passes back to Niklas Kronwall.

I don't understand why the coach is so damn stubborn about his lines and defensive pairings.

But I also know that the coaching staff and players are in this together, that it is also up to the horses to get the job done, and I know that Babcock's the man who spends a Chris Chelios-like 4 to 6 hours sleeping and the other 18 to 20 hours of his day coaching. The same's true for Tom Renney and Bill Peters, and the coaching staff's doing their damnedest to bring what is still a very young, very banged-up and very fragile team around.

I don't agree with everything Babcock does, and sometimes I complain about his decisions and question the hell out of them, but I trust him, too.

And he coaches a team of 23 players who can't or won't seem to score more than one goal than their opponent and then sit on their hands, never mind the lead, of late. That issue is up to the Zetterbergs, Datsyuks, Kronwalls, and yes, the Clearys, Abdelakders, Anderssons and Tatars to resolve. Babcock can't score goals on his own, folks.

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calquake's avatar

George, I think what irks everyone is Babcocks’ refusal to try to shake things up on the forward lines.  He keeps preaching aboot “earning” ice time but doesn’t practice what he preaches.  What exactly is the harm in putting Tatar up and Abby down for a few games?  Are we going to miss the playoffs because of that?  Hardly.  Uncle Mike knows what he’s doing but if the Wings miss the playoffs someone has to be held accountable.  The players areplaying hard and have looked somewhat better lately but the Wings need goals NOW, not next season.

And no I do not hate Babcock, I just strongly disagree with some of his decisions.

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Uniquake, workin' on my manifesto on 03/03/13 at 10:51 PM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

I am just frustrated by Babcock’s stubbornness to keep these lines the same instead of mixing them up George. I think I am starting to hear the Charlie Brown school teacher horn when listening to Babblespeak. I know we need to be patient with all the new players and injuries,  but I just don’t know what to think of his philosophy/ perspectives anymore.

Posted by cigar_nurse from On The mend for next season Greenville Pylons on 03/03/13 at 11:07 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

I think the answer to the question asked him about Tatar/Andersson was a fair, long time coming question.  Babs answer is what bothers me. Either he lied or he has lost touch with his hockey wisdom.  Both scenarios are worrisome.

Tar/Andersson being benched in the 3rd again, see the loss to the Kings. Same scenario same result.

I would like to Gus up with the Wings but not on a line with Tatar/Andersson.  Suggesting Mrazek over Howie is crazy.  Monster is fitting in fine so far and the Wings Goals against is coming down. The rotating door D has been a nightmare for any Wings goalie.

Pav’s stats are pedestrian since this line combo with Cleary and Aby.

If your PP or offence is not working maybe try some changes.  There has been very little changed on PP in 22 games.  The 2nd line woes are an obvious part of the latest goal shortages.

The word change is used very often in sports but Babcock doesn’t like it or know what it means. 

After being confronted with the over whelming issue of Tatar with Pav, I feel even less confident that it will ever happen.  Kudos to Mike Stone for having the balls to ask the obvious, others didn’t for some reason?

When Colo, Bert, Fil, Sammy return does anyone really think the GR kids won’t be sent down.  Babs is a players coach but only loyal to the old(er) Vets.

Our Goal tending is fine and our D has improved a lot(back checking forwards included). Kudos to Babs on that area.

Ice your best lineup available and players that earn ice time should get it. Simple, huh?

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 03/03/13 at 11:14 PM ET

John W.'s avatar

Babcock can’t score goals on his own, folks.

But he can put the team in the best position to score goals, and right now he’s not.  And it’s really odd from the guy who up until now was always known for putting his lines in a blender on a whim, to all of a sudden be locked into these lines that don’t seem to produce very many goals.  Every game this week the Wings scored exactly 1 goal.  If, as a coach, you don’t try to find a way to put your team in the best position to succeed, and that includes scoring goals, you’re not doing your job.  And having the best playmaker in the game playing with Dan Cleary and Justin Abdelkader is NOT putting your team in the best position to succeed.  Period.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 03/03/13 at 11:32 PM ET


You can only take this train of thought so far before you…insert creative ending to a metaphor about trains here.

No matter how you cut it, Abdelkader just does not fit in on the top two lines. That’s not the kind of player he is. I don’t enjoy being negative, but he’s not even a great 3rd or 4th liner.

This experiment has run its course. We can all see that.

Posted by CrimsonPhoenix on 03/04/13 at 12:14 AM ET

gambit91's avatar

WingedRider nailed everything I’ve been thinking.  Babcock has continued to try to drive a square peg into a round hole with his lines, the PP especially.  I just don’t think he’s utilizing the talent available to him properly..

Posted by gambit91 on 03/04/13 at 12:51 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m NOT ATTACKING ANYONE. I took a mother-*#$%@& nap after the game, got up and posted this WITHOUT reading any comments. This was just what was bouncing around in my head, not some sort of “political” statement.

I’m not framing anyone or anyone’s perspectives as anything other than valid observations by SMART AND SAVVY readers whose opinions I RESPECT THE HELL OUT OF.

Jesus *#$%@& Christ.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/04/13 at 01:00 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

That just pisses me off, HockeytownOverhaul. I do NOT go after people. I make it a *#$%@& POINT to not go after people who comment regarding their opinions.

I try very hard to stay the hell out of the comments section in terms of weighing in with my opinion unless I’m asked a direct question, because I believe that this blog belongs to the readers and that the discussion belongs to the readers.

I don’t EVER want to become a blogger who does anything less than take comments and criticism in stride. I try not to police or preach a company line in the comments section, nor do I try to get the last word in. I offer my opinion and let you take over the discussion.

I DID NOT attack you on purpose, and I don’t EVER want to become that kind of person or blogger.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/04/13 at 01:03 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Okay, okay, calming down here…Sorry for yelling.

But I shit you not, HTO, I did not, not, not not know what you said, and I made it my mission from the start to not be the kind of blogger who attacks his readers’ comments. That’s an awful thing to do, and I don’t believe in it.

I will say that this place has gotten pretty political, and it does worry me greatly. It scares the hell out of me, frankly. I know that emotions are particularly high because this is such a short and uncertain year for our team, but man, things can get aggressive in here.

I promise, promise, and promise some more that that I write is never meant to attack any of you. Ever. Your opinions and criticisms are valued incredibly highly and incredibly greatly by me.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/04/13 at 01:33 AM ET

Bugsy's avatar

Well then, I guess having a nice pleasant discussion about this over tea and cookies isn’t going to happen,...

The bottom line is this: We all love the Wings here, we’re all frustrated, we all want this to be fixed but are concerned it won’t be as quickly as we want, and they can’t fix the problems fast enough, even though we know they’re human and can make mistakes.  The bottom line though, is as Wings fans, I just don’t want to see us take out those frustrations about the Wings out on each other. My guess is most of the people here aren’t trying to go after each other (I hope) and are trying to be reasonable on this forum (which is partly why I came here in the first place), and realize that none of us are perfect and can hopefully keep the small fires under control.  Good night, y’all.

Posted by Bugsy on 03/04/13 at 01:51 AM ET


Just watched the end of the Babcock presser up on the top of the page. I think Babcock’s reaction is far more to the question and the way it is phrased to him, the coach of a successful professional hockey team.

Of course he’s probably thought about switching things around, looked at tape, seen the craptasticness of that line. However, that type of question comes off as advice from the media. He was obviously frustrated from the loss and this type of question is either answered with: “Yes, we’ve thought of that. Thanks for your insight” or “Wow, we’ve NEVER thought of that. What a great idea!” A simple “no” is at least respectful and gives an answer to a relatively unanswerable question for him here.

Fans want to changes and the only real proof we have is from games. However, these things don’t happen in a vacuum and we should trust the coaches to make the right decisions. This guy has done it at every level and he knows what he’s doing.

Posted by alexotw on 03/04/13 at 02:34 AM ET


PS I am also crazy bummed with 3 goals in 3 games. However, our armchair quarterbacking is hardly helpful and, if anything, more frustrating for fans when changes continue to elude us. Of course, that’s the fun when you’re commenting on a blog.

Posted by alexotw on 03/04/13 at 02:38 AM ET

42jeff's avatar

I forget who it was, but during yesterday’s LB, they said that Pav being on a line with Abdelkader and Cleary was like seeing Secretariat pulling a plow.

I recall being somewhat optimistic the first time I saw that combination put forward, hoping that maybe the “grittiness” of 8 and the “determination” of 11 would have some blooming effect when combined with Pav’s just being Pav….but I was wrong.

Instead you see Pav working his ASS off on nearly every shift to set up his linemates just to see them either shoot wide or miss the net nearly 99% of the time.  It truly is a waste.

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 03/04/13 at 08:00 AM ET


The only thing I really question is the second line and I’ll even admit that Cleary is working out better than I thought he would on that line, but Jeus Christ, what in the HELL is Abdelkader doing on that line?

Hell, even if, for some reason, Babcock isn’t comfortable putting one of Tatar or Andersson on a line with Datsyuk or if he isn’t willing to break them up, then surely he knows that even Patrick Eaves would be an upgrade on that line.

I just don’t get what Abdelkader is doing in the top six.

The oddest thing is that Babcock clearly does believe in rewarding play with ice time in some instances -evidenced by White’s extended time in audience- but for some reason he refuses to do it with his second line?  Baffling.

Posted by Garth on 03/04/13 at 10:56 AM ET

klank's avatar

well, it seems the only way for Abby to be removed is for him to become injured. geh! given Babs short answer, I am willing to bet this topic has been circulating within the organization. 

killer Tat gambit91

Posted by klank from the finest hot tub in Marin on 03/04/13 at 12:37 PM ET

Crater's avatar

Heh, last year people bitched that Babcock would juggle lines too quickly if things weren’t working. Now they want him to move things till something works. Really can’t please us fans, can you?

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 03/04/13 at 04:10 PM ET

statelouis26's avatar

This is the best article George has written and I don’t even agree with the opinion.  F the updates or trim them shorter and give us an opinion.  It’s what people want to read.

For the 1st time ever I agree with the first 10 or so comments.  I feel terrible for Datsyuk and the fact he has to play with Cleary/Abs.  Neither of the latter has earned the continued opportunity to play on a top 2 line, let alone with Pav.  Cleary has not earned anything, especially the boatload of ice time which includes the power play, to keep this crap.  He has what, 4 goals at 18 minutes per playing with a top 5 center in the game.  Yet Babs still has something strong for him.  Tatar has 4goals playing 5 minutes a game with Andersson and Eaves.  Give me a break.  I don’t hate Babs or think he should be canned.  Far from it.  This is just bs.  Neither has earned the ice time.

Posted by statelouis26 from Detroit, MI on 03/04/13 at 04:40 PM ET

alukacs's avatar

My thoughts:

1. Babs had his Babcockian smile right after he answered “No”. Of course he had thought about it… Yet, he still doesn’t do it, because….

2. A line has to play D and match-ups… And our 3rd and 4th line had trouble last night keeping up with their 3rd line (according to Babs). When we had a mismatch and had Chicago’s 1st or 2nd out there against our bottom six, we were chasing the puck a lot.  Remember that seemingly 6 minute long shift in the 2nd? We iced the puck all the time as well.

3. Cleary and Abby are playing like top 6… but they are responsible defensively…

4. Still sucks that we have no line-mates for #13.

Posted by alukacs on 03/04/13 at 04:52 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.